People that follow my posts on my Facebook page #youcanyouwill will know that I am passionate about mindfulness but what exactly are the bare bones of it? Hopefully this post will help make sense of some of my other posts and hopefully enable you to practice and make use of this great skill/way of being.
People often believe mindfulness to be meditation. It has evolved from eastern meditative practices, particularly Buddhism, and it can be practised as a meditative exercise, but it doesn't have to be. I'm not very good at sitting and not doing anything, so for me when i do mindfulness I tend to do it actively. Ok, but what is it? Mindfulness is about this moment, here and now. Not the one that has just gone, or the one coming, but this one right now. In this moment we can focus on anything we want to that's in this moment with us, whether that's using our senses to see something, hear something, feel something, taste something, or just to focus internally on our breathing or a pain we can feel. Our minds are typically full of competing thoughts. Someone has estimated we think 60,000 thoughts daily. 60,000!!!!!!!!! If we paid attention to all those thoughts...POOF! It's unachievable. If we're paying attention to thoughts that overwhelm us by their magnitude, or content, then mindfulness helps us re-focus on the here and now and give us respite from those overwhelming thoughts. It doesn't make the thoughts go away, it just allows us to regain control over what we're paying attention to. The more we recognise that we're thinking "mindlessly" the more we can then choose, on purpose, to focus on something we want to. This is being mindful.
Mindfulness is not berating yourself if you can't do the exercise, it's recognising your mind as wandered to a judgment and then you re-focus on the exercise, be it focusing on the sound of the rain falling, or the purring of your cat on your lap. If you live in your heads a lot then you're probably not living in the present. You're likely to be going over things that have already happened, in the past, even if recent past, or you're worrying about what might be in the future. Neither of these things is going to get you anywhere if all you do is live in your head. Mindfulness brings you back to the now...smelling the freshly cut grass, paying complete attention to your drive to work rather than doing it on autopilot with the radio on. Mindfulness is about doing one thing at a time, not typing an email whilst chatting on the phone, whilst trying to answer a colleague's question. Do one thing at a time, give it your complete attention, and do it as effectively as you can.
Now, here's the thing. Your mind will wander, it will! Unless you have trained for hours and hours in the practice of mindfulness at some point your mind will wander. Mine usually wanders after anywhere from 10 seconds to a minute. But that's OK! Accept that your mind will do that. The mindfulness bit is recognising your mind has wandered and just bring it back to what you are choosing to focus on, each and every time. Don't judge your mind wandering. Just accept it wandered and bring it back, again, and again.
You might try being mindful for one song on the radio, just listening to that song without doing anything else. That might 3-4 minutes in length. It will feel a long time. Your mind will wander. But the focus is on trying to hear those lyrics, hear the instruments being played, hear the melody. You might notice things you never noticed before when you have listened to that song, perhaps hundreds of times previously.
If my mind starts to get busy and hectic, I then choose to use mindfulness to focus my mind, emptying things away as I do, and leaving me feeling calmer and more in control. If we let our thoughts to their own devices they will take over. You can regain control by using mindfulness to choose what you want to concentrate on at any specific moment. As you practice mindfulness more you might find that you react to things slightly differently, maybe more calmly, maybe more thoughtfully...mindfulness has allowed you to slow your thinking down and given you space to way up your response before you act.
Now, I've given some examples of how to do mindfulness and that's the thing, you can do it anywhere with anything, every day things that happen such as washing your hair, chopping veg, even just walking! When was the last time you walked, and focused on the walk, what you could see, hear, smell, and not what was going on in your head? If you can't think of a time when you last did this then I challenge you to go for a mindful walk over the next day or two. When your mind wanders back to your busy thoughts then re-focus on externally what's going on. It might only be between two lampposts, but for that distance, just focus on that moment, there and then, and what's going on around you. Let me know how you get on! Any questions about mindfulness then please, get in touch!